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Dear Skip

An open letter to Henry Louis Gates.

12:00 AM, Jul 29, 2009 • By RUTH R. WISSE
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The ironies of progress can hardly be lost on you. When I came to Harvard in 1993, you had just published in the New York Times an op-ed urging Black intellectuals to face up to their own racist attitudes. Invoking the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., you wrote, "While anti-Semitism is generally on the wane in this country, it has been on the rise among black Americans. A recent survey finds not only that blacks are twice as likely as whites to hold anti-Semitic views but--significantly--that it is among younger and more educated blacks that anti-Semitism is most pronounced." You argued then that owning up to such internal racism was the key to self-respect. Now that America has a black president, Massachusetts a black governor, and Cambridge a black mayor, you appear to have adopted the posture of racial victim. Are you trying to keep alive the politically potent appeal to liberal guilt?


I'm concerned for you, but would not like to see the authority of our police diminished, their effectiveness reduced, or their reputation unfairly tarnished. Since, inadvertently I assume, you have made the work of our police force more difficult than it already is, I wish that you would help set the record straight. You are the man to do it.


Fondly,
Ruth

Ruth R. Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature, and Professor of Comparative Literature, at Harvard.